Jonah Leatherman – Self Titled

Smacking us around with a petulant beat is one thing, but the outright angst of the groove in “Moody Judy” is likely more than enough to push a lot of rock fans off their chairs this sunny May. It isn’t quite the forthright punk of “Sunhat,” but even this closing number from Jonah Leatherman’s self-titled album has a lot of guitar grit to it. I wouldn’t say this band takes a page from the grunge playbook per se, but there’s nothing clean about the seductive melodies that are scattered throughout this official studio debut. It’s rock n’ roll without the pomp, pop without the polish, and it makes sense to me why so many listeners are getting excited about the sound this LP is built on.

Between the Lines” has a reserved indulgence that I would love to hear this band expand on more in the future, but its most melodic, neo-balladic moments are what really leaves me wanting additional material like this from Jonah Leatherman. They wear the post-Beatles conceptualism look pretty well, especially in songs like this one and the rusted harmony-powered “Strings,” which is definitely a song I would select as a lead single if I had production control over this outfit. With its yearning harmonies and achy groove, it takes the footwork of “Castle Stones” and gives it just a little more danger than I would ever have expected a band like this one to muster up inside of a four-minute song.

Castle Stones” has a lazy little rhythm that hypnotizes me inside of the track’s first forty seconds – ahead of its first electrifying collapse – but it doesn’t have a hard time figuring out where to go from here. There are numerous instances where it feels like Jonah Leatherman is letting things fall apart on purpose, to illustrate sonic apathy in the likes of “Mourning Glory” or “Castle Stones,” both of which do a fair job of sandwiching the screamer of a song in “Looking Glass,” probably my favorite excerpt from Jonah Leatherman. This isn’t a band that’s going to work something into their material unless it benefits their ethics as a group, which puts them in line more with early alternative rock figures than it does anyone they’re currently contending with in the underground.

While “Westward the Wagons” and “Couldn’t Find Any Reason” have the tonality of an A/B-sided single, they don’t feel like they’re feeding off of the same artistic influence. To be honest, there are no two tracks in this album in which that standard applies; this is as eclectic as it gets without stumbling into the avant-garde, and I think Jonah Leatherman was the right band to bring it to our attention this year. The Great Lakes underground, which envelops a lot of northern Indiana, never gets the credit it deserves anymore with regards to the gems it helps to incubate, but with a group as strong as this one wearing their hometown’s personality in their act, I do believe this is bound to change

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